Former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan took aim at Hardik Pandya after BCCI decided to exclude Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer from its annual central contracts for not making themselves available for domestic cricket despite being fit. BCCI said Kishan and Iyer were “not considered” for the annual retainership for the 2023-24 season. Both the young cricketers opted out of Ranji Trophy matches despite strict orders from BCCI. The board, in an unprecedented move, decided to crack the whip.

India's Hardik Pandya in his bowling stride(AP)
India’s Hardik Pandya in his bowling stride(AP)

Iyer, who was part of India’s XI till the second Test against England in Vizag before being dropped for poor form, was in Grade B in last year’s contract. Kishan, on the other hand, was in Grade C. The left-hander has not been available for selection since the Test series in South Africa. He, however, is currently taking part in the DY Patil T20 Cup in Navi Mumbai.

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“Please note that Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan were not considered for the annual contracts in this round of recommendations,” said the BCCI in a statement. “The BCCI has recommended that all athletes give precedence to participating in domestic cricket during periods when they are not representing the national team,” the board added.

“They are talented cricketers, both Shreyas and Ishan. Hoping they bounce back and come back stronger,” former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan wrote on X.

Urging the board to keep the same rules for all cricketers, Pathan questioned BCCI’s stance on Hardik Pandya. Just like Kishan and Iyer, Hardik didn’t play a single Ranji Trophy match but he was not only retained in the central contract list but also kept in Grade A.

“If players like Hardik don’t want to play red-ball cricket, should he and others like him participate in white-ball domestic cricket when they aren’t on national duty? If this doesn’t apply to all, then Indian cricket won’t achieve the desired results!” Pathan wrote.

Hardik returned to action with the DY Patil T20 Cup. The all-rounder suffered an ankle injury during the early stages of the ODI World Cup which kept him on the bench for all these months. Hardik, currently not in contention for Test cricket due to workload management, however, has not made himself available for either the Vijay Hazare domestic one-dayers or the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s.

Hardik is set to lead the Mumbai Indians in IPL 2024 which is scheduled to begin on March 22.


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